All About Giving Birth

(46 Posts)
rosabud Wed 20-Feb-13 12:19:15

At first glance it may seem that this post belongs in the Pregnancy section but I have decided to pose the question here because a) my last experience of giving birth was nearly 8 years ago so this is more of a reflective idea rather than a here and now/what is the immediate answer sort of topic and b) I find this the most interesting section of Mumsnet so I am interested to hear the thoughts/experiences of those who read the posts in this section.

So........when I was pregnant and giving birth, it was very much assumed that your male partner would be at the birth of the baby and it would have appalled my younger self to consider anything as old-fashioned as the dad-to-be pacing a hospital corridor to be offered a cigar by passing young medical students before being finally greeted by matron bearing a beautifully scrubbed and perfectly wrapped bundle after all the blood/guts/screaming/real work was over and done with. Like most women of my generation, husband was present for every moment of agony and blood and guts. In fact, two of my pregnancies were successful home births and during one of those the midwife failed to arrive in time so husband played a vital role and, indeed, my experiences of having male partner there are generally positive.

But........now that I am older and look back on the whole thing.......I can't help thinking that there were some downsides to him being present and, also, I think it may have been more natural and comforting to have had some very close female friends there instead.

I wondered how other people feel about this. Is it vital for bonding/equality that dads are at the birth? Is it a more naturally female experience and so it would be better to surround oneself with other females? How do men feel about it? Was it an invaluable experience or do they think they were out of their depth and would rather have been in the corridor but felt under too much pressure to say so?

As feminists, do we have a view on this subject?

StephaniePowers Sat 23-Feb-13 19:03:21

DH was there both times, btu the second time, if he had said 'actually I'd rather not' I would not have minded: he's lovely, but just sat there really. Had anything gone wrong, I don't know what he'd have done, and you really want to be with someone who'll speak up for you.

I also think quite a few men would be relieved if they didn't have to think about it. Not sure how I feel about this but I personally know men who have found it very frightening. Of course the same goes for women, and they kind of have to be there, so, meh.

It would be nice if birth included more people than just the father (as a norm), I mean friends and family if you wanted them there. I completely understand why hospitals wouldn't allow this though. And jeez, the politics...

rosabud Sat 23-Feb-13 18:52:39

Thankyou for all your interesting replies! I think the point about marriages being different now and more of an equal partnership/friendship than they used to be is a valid point of view. Also, interesting views about the idea of being supported by a female close to you who has already given birth. This was normal and expected in my grandmother's generation but by the time my mother was giving birth she was in hospital with medical professionals and noone "close" was deemed necessary. When "close" people were allowed back in, it seems to have been assumed that it would be the father.

The other interesting point is that many women friends today are no more likely than a husband to be experienced at birth. Sadly, this is true. I have given birth four times yet, as all my close friends and relatives chose to have their husbands as their birthing partner, I have never actually seen anyone giving birth! I think this does suggest that women are not as involved in birth as they used to be........which is a bit of a shame.

But it's good to hear so many positive stories of supportive male partners.

Rosyisgonnabeamummy Sat 23-Feb-13 15:58:48

This has been a worry for me too! I would prefer to do the whole thing alone, in hospital with medical support obv.
My dh just shouts orders in stressful situations - which I dont respond well too!
My mum and I aren't close and I can't say I have anyone friend wise who I would value their input.
Dh prob will be there but I will discuss it with the midwife and make sure they tell him to leave if I want him to.

I have to say at this point I am not in a suppressed marriage! I do normally do what I want

TomDudgeon Fri 22-Feb-13 23:10:32

When it has come to births I have described dh as my rock numerous times. He's my best friend and staunchest support and I wouldn't want anyone else there.
My mum would have been jittery and I don't really have anyone else I would feel comfortable being there.
If dh hadn't been there I would have preferred being on my own.
I think having people you are comfortable with is more likely to make you labour easily not the fact that they are female.
Dh is the calm to my erratic and nuttiness

Chiggers Fri 22-Feb-13 22:54:43

DH was at the births of our 2 DC, and TBH, there is not one female friend or family member that I would have had at the births (apart from DSIL, who is a neonatal ward sister).

If I had a choice. I would have had my DF or DB's there or I would do it alone with just the medical staff there for both CS's.

I'm not rabidly anti-female, I just don't feel comfortable getting close to other females, and so have kept my distance.

kickassangel Thu 21-Feb-13 16:07:58

I think there's also a certain amount of pressure on the dh's to be there. My waters broke, and I went in, then I was sent home again. DH went to work and people were shocked that he'd left me at home alone, but the truth was that I wanted to be on my own, and he wanted to save taking time off for when I had the baby &she was born, not to watch me wander around/sleep and moan.

Once I was induced, it was expected that he would take care of me, so he spent a whole day following me around the hospital as they kept sending me off for a walk. It felt very much like he was being used as a free minder. I assume if I had been alone then they would have sent me off alone, or asked me to stay on the ward. tbh, the level of care and ifno given, I could have just got in the car and gone home for a few hours and they would never have noticed.

Again, once I was on a drip he pretty much was expected just to sit there. It went on for hours, and he really had nothing to do, but felt that he couldn't read or anything as he was meant to be 'involved'. tbh, he was just a spare part. The midwives all but ignored me, and I was too caught up in what was happening to pay any notice to him.

So I don't think men need to be there, it should be up to the birthing mother, but I think there's a lot of pressure on men to be there whatever the couple actually want.

WoTmania Thu 21-Feb-13 11:52:26

I wasn't bothered either way, DH didn't really want to be there for DS1 but was and the other two were quick HBs so he had no choice.
I rather suspect it depends on the couple. With DS1 DH really wasn't that much 'use', I found it quite distracting and irritating, particularly in transition having him around but having to tell him what to do. HAd I ahd a close female friend that would have been preferable. My mum said she'd be there for DS1's birth but IMO having her there slowed things up (she's a real prude at times) and contributed to me having to transfer to hospital. For me, a good MW would be more than enough. The younger two I was basically alone until I made DH call a MW out - babies were born within minutes of MW's arrival. Suited me fine. But every woman is different.

When I was pregnant I found quite a lot of supporting evidence to suggest that having a male there for the labour (which can be 12 - 48 hours for a first baby) is unhelpful and can lead to the labour being longer, or even stopping altogether. I decided to have a female doula to support me during labour, and my husband only to come in once things were so far prorgressed there would be no going back, so the final 10 minutes or so. During labour I could tell when my husband was in the room, trying to peek around the corner, even though I couldn't physically see him. Men emit a stress hormone during labour which interferes with the woman's hormone levels. It's not a conscious thing and there's not a lot we can do about it. My birth plan was that if anything went wrong (which it did!) then the doula and my husband would swap over and he would become my main supporter because the research was only applicable to natural births.

Many of my cohort were shocked that I wasn't having my husband with m e during labour until they understood the reasoning behind it. I agree that there should not be an automatic assumption that the man will be there for the labour/birth - it's not helpful to either women or men.

curryeater Thu 21-Feb-13 10:49:57

My sister told me that statistically there are better outcomes for first babies when the mother is supported by a woman who has herself given birth vaginally. I didn't invite a chum, though I did seriously consider it when she said that, because she had a brutal ventouse delivery of her first baby which she feels was unnecessary. But didn't feel close enough to anyone really. I guess maybe I am saying that dp has already seen your fanjo ;)

for many of us now our dps are our best friends, or supposed to be. If they are, that is great. If they aren't, it can be a horrible feeling and the assumption that he belongs at the birth is maybe not helpful.

I am glad dp was there because he was nice to have around, but also because I was a bloody trouper and he would never have any idea what it was like if he hadn't seen it [shallow]

AaRoundAbout Thu 21-Feb-13 02:42:43

Gave birth 2 weeks ago, had dp and my dm there smile ...had Dm there as I imagined dp would do a swift exit at the sign of any blood....however he didn't, he stayed very supportive and sympathetic, he helped me, he managed to actually watch ds come out (I couldn't do that!!!) And he then cut the cord... dm didn't have to do anything smile sooo glad I had dp with me.

I don't see anything wrong with having just females there but dp sure made me feel silly for doubting him!

kickassangel Thu 21-Feb-13 02:08:12

This is a difficult subject for me as my main impression was that I was being awkward and unreasonable by not just popping the baby out. This was from dh, the first midwife and the other medics called in when the 2nd midwife thought I should have a cs.

Somewhere I got the impression that it was supposed to be painful and if I did the right things all would go well. Therefore it was MY fault that things didn't go well. Of course that's a crock of shit. But all the birthing classes kind of made it sound like that, and dh seemed to think that, as he had no other experience to go on.

Having said that, I honestly can't think of one person I would actively want to go through that with me. I would rather hire a doula than have anyone I know.

Like many, I assumed that te midwife would be there with and for me. How wrong I was.

Lollydaydream Wed 20-Feb-13 23:47:31

I have a couple of thoughts here, firstly that the trend reflects the different way we perceive marriage now as opposed to the 50s; it's much more of a partnership ideal now and the ideal is that your dh or dp.is the closest person to you and therefore can emotionally support you. And that must be related to the evolution of feminism.
Linked to that is that we no longer expect our dh to be repulsed by seeing us undignified. Also my dh would never have clue what I had been through if he hadn't been there; that would affect our relationship.
Secondly I think the concept of being supported by women also plays into an ideal of having supportive experienced women around you. My mum has had 1 labour; that hardly makes her experienced and most women nowadays only labour once or twice. When you add in that every labour is different it really is pot luck if you can find a birthing partner who actually understands what you're going through.

Schooldidi Wed 20-Feb-13 21:06:24

I had my mum there for the birth of dd1 and dp was there for the birth of dd2 (dp is not dd1's biological father if that makes a difference).

I think I preferred having my mum there. She knew what was happening as she'd done it herself, 3 times. She kept me distracted and joking for a lot longer than dp even tried to entertain me. By the actual birth for both of them I was screaming (a lot) but the labour bit was much more 'fun' with my mum there. I don't know if that is a reflection of their personalities rather than their genders though. Dp didn't really know how to be useful, to him it was something I had to do and he wasn't really part of it so he just sat in the corner until I told him I needed something. For my mum she wanted to help, so she was constantly asking if there was anything I needed, or she was keeping up a general chatter with the mw (and the 2 student mw who were observing) which distracted me and was in fact very useful in giving me something other than the pain to focus on.

I would have been very annoyed if anyone had been paying more attention to dp than they were paying to me though.

Trekkie Wed 20-Feb-13 20:53:12

I suspect it depends on the disposition of the indiviual rather than their sex or relationship etc.

I would not want my mum there in a million squillion years.
I can't think of any friends I would want there.
DH was hopeless, just looked terrified and panicked the whole time and all the people who were supposed to be looking after me (things didn't go well) kept asking him if he was OK, up to and including the anaesthetist.. Gah!

I think TBH for me it would be nice to have any old friend/family/partner there for the early bits for and then for the later more (for me) godawful bits going it alone.

But being supported by a male birth partner as well as a female, wouldn't be a problem would it?
In my reading around 'the history of child birth, that is the way that it developed, yes.
Though of course for Royal births, especially under the Louis's, the king was present to ensure the child being birthed was his(or rather emerging from the women he was married to) but at that stage the queen was pretty much giving birth in front of the whole court anyway.

I would not have had anyone else at the birth of my daughter, but DH. That was my first birth and he was amazing, truly wonderful. The mws wouldn't stop praising him (and me, too) for how supportive he was.

With my son, I felt more prepared for labour so would have been happy to have my female best friend or mother or sister with me if DH had needed to be elsewhere. I didn't need him in the same way, but I wanted him and he wanted to be there, so it was we two again. As it turned out it's probably best he was there as he understood what was happening when I went into the transition phase and got very spaced out whereas I think my best friend and sister might have panicked or not known what to do, having no experience of labour whatsoever. I also ended up hanging off him to bear down (was on my knees for the pushing stage) and I don't think I would have grabbed at anyone else in the same way.

Basically I think it boils down to who you feel most comfortable with given the incredibly visceral nature of birth and for me that was DH. That being said, I would have gladly had a home water birth and invited my aforementioned favourite females if that had happend.

TeiTetua Wed 20-Feb-13 18:02:23

It's probably fair to say that if a woman invites another woman to be with her in childbirth, she's most likely choosing someone who'll do the right things. Whereas if her husband is there, she's stuck with him.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Wed 20-Feb-13 18:00:24

I think another point is that if you want a friend with you who has "been there, done that", unless her kids are grown up, SHE will need to access childcare at the drop of a hat for an unknown amount of time, any time in a five week period. I know I couldn't commit to being a birth partner for a friend.

VivaLeBeaver Wed 20-Feb-13 17:51:51

As a midwife the labours I've seen when its been women only as support have generally been great labours with very supportive people. Whether its mothers, sisters, friends.

Some men can be supportive like this but as a sweeping generalisation I'd say the majority aren't.

NonnoMum Wed 20-Feb-13 17:41:17

Cross post, Viva - thanks for the reference.

NonnoMum Wed 20-Feb-13 17:40:40

MY DH missed one of our DC's birth. It has not affected his very close relationship in any way whatsoever.
In fact, the MW said that there was evidence that an uninhibited woman, labours much more efficiently.
I'm all in favour of good support for a labouring woman and it not necessarily coming from a man.
I agree that we may look back at all these men in the labour wards and think it was pretty faddish. Woman have traditionally laboured with other female support for years.
You only have to watch One Born to see how generally they are a spare part during the labour process.

VivaLeBeaver Wed 20-Feb-13 17:38:05

Michael Odent has done a lot of research into how women have better birth outcomes if they're supported by female birth partners rather than male birth partners. Shorter labours, less intervention.

AmandaPayne Wed 20-Feb-13 17:34:04

That's interesting Maggie. So they were separate steps?

You see, I think when hospitalisation became the norm for birthing, there was a very long period, perhaps fifties to the late seventies where 'the only people you could have with you were the medical staff. That was certainly my m-I-l's(stbex) experience and I'm pretty sure when my nana ended up in hospital to birth my uncle, she was unaccompanied too.
So in the late seventies the move to include womens partners in the birthing experience was to bring in someone to give emotional support once again. But this time it moved towards the partner rather than what was seen as the traditional support, someone female.
I think men should be invited into birthing rooms, as that gives them knowledge and exposure that they would not otherwise have and hopefully as a consequence a deeper understanding of what happens. When people are denied knowledge of something, they are more likely to be dismissive or even fearful of it.
In the striving for equality, the process of birth bring experienced by both people (where circumstances allow) should lead to a greater understanding and mutual respect. In theory anyway.

AmandaPayne Wed 20-Feb-13 17:26:59

Yes, I'm not sure I'd actually want a female friend or relative there. As I mentioned, I had a doula (essentially providing what I though midwives did, but often don't). I wanted someone who knew what was going on as well as supporting me IYSWIM. I don't think it would have mattered that much if that person was a man.

I do think it's an interesting question how we all came to feel like this though.

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